Thursday, December 5, 2013

Always Believe The Victim

Because victims never make up stories about being raped.
It took a jury less than 30 minutes to decide Sara Ylen is guilty of filing a false felony report and tampering with evidence.
The 38-year-old Lexington woman told police two men broke into her Lexington home and sexually assaulted her Sept. 18, 2012.
Witnesses testified to prior acts of false accusations of sexual assault by Ylen, as well as bruises that appeared to be made out of makeup.
James Grissom served nearly 10 years in prison after being convicted in 2003 of raping Ylen in a Meijer parking lot in 2001.
He was released from prison in November 2012 after the Michigan Supreme Court granted him a new trial because investigators found Ylen had made other unsubstantiated claims of rape.
Given the new evidence and the length of time since the last trial, St. Clair County Prosecutor Mike Wendling asked the case be dismissed. Wendling also asked that Ylen’s current St. Clair County trial be handled by Wayne County because of his office’s relationship with Ylen during the Grissom trial.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Part 2)

"A 12-year-old girl got a series of text messages this summer from her mother's boyfriend, Woodstock [Illinois] police Sgt. Charles "Chip" Amati, according to copies of the messages obtained by the [Chicago] Tribune. One message, punctuated with a text emoticon shaped like a heart, read, "Send me some sexy pictures!"" (Link)
I've said it before, and I'll say it again - the greatest danger to your children isn't a stranger on the Sex Offender registry.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

A lot of justification of the Sex Offender Registry centers around making the community feel safe by letting them know where the danger is. It is, of course, a false sense of security. Recidivism rates (under 10%, the lowest of any category of crime, including murder) have remained virtually unchanged since the 10 years before the sex offender laws came into effect.

Clearly, watching Sex Offenders has had little to no effect in reducing recidivism or preventing new sex crime, for the simple reason that the majority of new sex crime is committed by those who aren't on the Sex Offender Registry.

Which brings me to this interesting news story: Texas police officer accused of rape (link)

The public relies on the Sex Offender Registry and the police to watch Sex Offenders and keep them safe. But, who watches the watchers?

Friday, November 22, 2013


I've been absent from this site for a while, but I plan on posting more after the new year. However, I want to mark the passage of an anniversary today.

Twenty-five years ago this night, two lives intersected, and both were forever changed. Tonight, I sit in memory of that event, when selfish and uncaring actions by myself stole something that can never be returned.

I mark this anniversary this night, as I have every night for the past 24 years, in her memory. I pray that she has found her way back to the peace that I took from her. She forgave me - I cannot forgive myself.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Against Bullying

If you think it's OK to persecute, harass, and shame former sex offenders, you're not against bullying.

Monday, September 9, 2013


This is not the hero you are looking for...

In November of 1934, the Law against Dangerous Career Criminals is passed in Nazi Germany, and permits the detention and castration of sex offenders and others guilty of "racial-biological" crimes. Along with over 6 million Jews, they are sent to concentration and labor camps, where they are ultimately killed.

Sources:, Wikipedia.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Hit List - Part 2

In 2012, in Washington, Patrick Drum murdered Gary Blanton, Jr. and Jerry Ray.

In 2013, in South Carolina, Jeremy and Christine Moody murdered Charles and Gretchen Parker.

Also in 2013, in Idaho, Bradley Houser assaulted and beat Rick Perkins.

The victims of these crimes were Sex Offenders. In each of the murders, the killers admitted to planning to continue tracking down and killing Sex Offenders until they were caught. These are but three examples of a disturbing trend regarding Sex Offenders, and the link between them is clear - in every case, the Sex Offender Registry was used to identify and track down the victim.

The question must be asked: why is this happening? The stated purpose of the various Sex Offender Registries is to inform the public in order to promote awareness and safety. However, inflamed passions and the twin myths of high recidivism rates and the ineffectiveness of rehabilitation lead to beliefs such as this:

Given that the general public has proven that they cannot handle information such as the Sex Offender Registry in a responsible manner, the time has come for that information to be removed from the public view.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Victim Blaming

Recently, I ran across the following on Facebook:

This is all good advice, and really, I can't stress enough that this graphic is spot-on.

However, this comment caught my eye:

Again, spot-on, and something that needed to be said. In the current culture of "believe the victim, no matter what" because she "made the brave choice" to come forward, accusations of rape have become the weapon of choice of the jilted girlfriend.

Understand this, though: Not all accusations of rape are false. And I don't believe that the commenter meant to imply that. On the flip side of the coin, we (if we are being honest with ourselves) need to acknowledge that it does happen.

Then, this happened:


In context (a post with a graphic that gives advice about what is and isn't rape), a comment furthering that advice is most decidedly not "victim blaming". Declaring it to be so is, at best, an attempt to silence an uncomfortable truth, much like "victim blaming" itself does.

Education about what is and isn't rape should cover both sides of the street. Distilled down to its bare essence, the education we need to be teaching our young men and women is:

If someone cannot or did not consent to a particular sexual encounter by saying "YES", it is rape. If someone said "YES" to a particular sexual encounter, they cannot later change their mind about that consent after the fact. Period.

In a he said/she said case with no other witnesses, where the presence of biological evidence is damning and the pressure to believe the victim over the accused is high (lest there be an accusation of "victim blaming", oh the irony), it happens. Too often, and with life-changing consequences for the accused.

So what is victim blaming? Simply put, victim blaming is when it is suggested that someone bears some responsibility for the fact that a crime (usually sexual assault, but including mugging, robbery, and others) was committed against them. It takes the form of statements such as:

"You shouldn't have worn that."

"You shouldn't have walked alone at night."

"You should have locked your doors."

Talking about sexual assault is difficult - it is a minefield filled with triggers and powerful emotions. However, those emotions, while very valid, have no place in a discussion about what is and isn't rape. Stating that someone shouldn't take back consent after it is given is not victim blaming. Giving consent, having sex, and then taking back that consent out of a desire to gain revenge is wrong, just as rape itself is wrong.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Officially Licensed Sex Offender

File under "You can't make this shit up":

That's right, the local Sheriff has given me permission to be a Sex Offender for another year.


Thursday, July 4, 2013

What It's Like

[Everlast, What It's Like]

You're tellin' stories about the man livin' down the street
His eyes are funny, he keeps to himself, and he's kind of a creep
You look him up on the internet, see he's on some list
But that don't tell his whole story, and there's the twist

God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in his shoes
'Cause then you really might know what it's like to sing the blues
Then you really might know what it's like
Then you really might know what it's like
Then you really might know what it's like
Then you really might know what it's like

See, Mary had sex with Tom because they were in love
Her parents had a problem with that, confronted Tom, and push came to shove
Hearts were broken, charges filed, and police called
'Cause he's 18, she's only 16, and that's the law
Now he's out of jail and trying hard to find some work
They call him "monster", call him "pedo", and call him "pervert"

God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in his shoes
'Cause then you really might know what it's like to sing the blues
Then you really might know what it's like
Then you really might know what it's like
Then you really might know what it's like
Then you really might know what it's like

It'll make a proud man beg, make a good man sin, make a tough man cry
When you can't win, make you wanna cash in, and so you start to lie
Just to survive, you'll do anything, and that's a fact
Life on the list is like living death; there's no way back
Down to your last dime, you're out of time because you followed your heart
You know it never ends, you've got no friends, and nowhere to start...

So, here comes Max, he knows the "facts", says he's got the cure
"Cut off his dick, 'cause he makes me sick, keep our children pure!"
Late one night, he looks up the list, and loses his head
He's on run, 'cause he grabbed his gun; now Tom is dead
Now Tom's wife and his kids are caught in the midst of all of this pain
Others call Max a hero when he's really a zero, and that's a shame

God forbid you ever had to wake up to hear the news
'Cause then you really might know what it's like to have to lose
Then you really might know what it's like
Then you really might know what it's like
Then you really might know what it's like
To have to lose...

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Not On Any List

It's a well documented fact that those convicted of sex crimes have the lowest recidivism rate of any class of offender, save those convicted of murder. In fact, 95% of all sex crimes are committed by someone who is not on any registry.

If you want to find the person most likely to commit a sexual assault on someone, don't waste your time searching the Sex Offender registry - you only have to look at your Federal Government:

Rachel Maddow smacked Jim DeMint (Big-R) with some reality on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday. According to DeMint, women like being forced to have mandated ultrasounds before undergoing an abortion procedure.

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow explained that ultrasounds, contrary to what DeMint said, are not free and they are forced by the state.

She said, “So it’s an invasive vaginal forced procedure that a woman cannot say no to by order of the state government, and that is all right with you. I understand that. You feel that you’ve got an interest strong enough to override a woman’s desire to not have that happen to her that you can insist that it does as a Legislator. But most American women I think are going to balk at that."

DeMint was not swayed, and continued to insist that women want forced ultrasounds. Rapists also insist their victim wanted ‘it’.

Full story and video at the [story link].

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Wall

I'm woven in a fantasy
I can't believe the things I see
The path that I have chosen
Has led me to a wall
And with each passing day
I feel a little more
Like something dear was lost

It rises now before me
A dark and silent barrier between
All I am
And all that I would ever want to be
It's just a travesty
Marking off the boundaries my spirit
Would erase

To pass beyond is what I seek
I fear that I may be too weak
And those are few
Who've seen it through
To glimpse the other side
The promised land is waiting
Like a maiden
That is soon to be a bride

The moment is a masterpiece
The weight of indecision's in the air
It's standing there
The symbol and the sum of all that's me
It's just a travesty
Blocking out the light and blinding me
I want to see

Gold and diamonds cast a spell
It's not for me, I know it well
The riches that I seek
Are waiting on the other side
There's more that I can measure
In the treasure of the love that I can find

And though it's always been with me
I must tear down the wall and let it be
All I am
And all that I was ever meant to be
In harmony
Shining true and smiling back
At all who wait to cross
There is no loss

Monday, May 27, 2013


If you haven't been following the exchange between Sabrina Fitzgerald-Ruiz and me over in the comments section of my post "Facts Matter", please take a few moments to look.

As I said there, the point of looking up her information wasn't to terrorize her or make her afraid, but to get her to understand just what it's like for families like mine and the 750,000+ registrants in the United States. It took me all of 15 minutes of slightly motivated searching to dig up all of that information, and it didn't cost me a dime. Every bit of what I gleaned was publicly shared, albeit over widely disconnected sources - nothing like the "one stop shopping" of the registry.

Ever since the murder of Gary Blanton, my wife has lived in fear of someone knocking on our door and killing me, or of a drive-by shooting of our house. Because I am forced to work for myself doing odd jobs and selling things on Craigslist, she worries every time I leave the house to meet a customer - is it legitimate, or is this the time that it turns out to be a trap designed to lure me so I can be killed?

This is not a way to live. This is not living. This is not being a productive member of society. And yet, this is the life we force registrants into, and when they fail and fall back on crime (theft, robbery, drug dealing) just to survive, they become the worst of the worst, the serial criminal who cannot be reformed. It is a system set up to fail.

After I brought all of Sabrina's information to light, she immediately locked down her Facebook and other profiles, and changed her cover photo on Facebook, most likely as a commentary on our exchange and the realization of just how exposed she really is.

I would disagree, Sabrina. You are not a bad example. You are human.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Today, two stories broke that caught my interest. The first made headlines across the internet and rallied celebrities to its cause.

Predictably, and quite understandably, this is being portrayed as a LGBT rights issue - but the truth is, she is but the most visible of the thousands of young people charged with a Romeo & Juliet crime every year, whose lives are made infinitely more difficult by being forced to register as a sex offender.

If you support the petition (link to petition), consider this: you can't support dropping the prosecution of Kaitlyn without also supporting the dropping of prosecution and removal from the registry of the thousands who found themselves in statutory situations. Either love is right all the time, or it's wrong. Sadly, there's no passionate celebrity contributions or calls for clemency in their cases - just prosecution and a life on the registry. If you speak up for Kaitlyn (and I hope you do), won't you also speak up for those others?

The other story (story link) involved a 911 operator telling a woman who was about to be sexually assaulted in her own apartment by an ex-boyfriend who was in the process of breaking in that she didn't have any officers available to send to help her due to budget cuts.


On the one hand (and on one side of the country) we have the manpower and resources to prosecute a teenager for having a relationship with a younger teenager. On the other hand (and on the other side of the country), we don't have enough police officers to prevent an actual sexual assault (that could have quickly escalated to murder) from happening.

This is the priorities of the law enforcement system. They're not interested in preventing crime, because that doesn't make any money. No, they're more interested in putting someone on the registry after the crime (and for nonsensical reasons), because that's where the money is - state funding, federal funding, and that oh-so-precious extortion from the registrant.

Saturday, May 18, 2013


Today, I got a comment on a two-month-old post that was a laughable legal threat - you can read it in the comments to (this post). Small hint: public speech isn't protected by copyright, and public hate speech is even less so.

This, of course, led me to visit one of my favorite places on Facebook, the psycho-Disneyland that is No Peace For Predators. I admit, I haven't been there in a while, mostly because I don't have enough alcohol to combat the stupid endemic in the comments, but I made an exception today. So, what's our favorite "non-violent" vigilante group been up to? For starters, they've been busy putting out warning flyers for various zip codes, listing names, addresses and pictures of sex offenders living in that area - but only so you're aware of who lives in what area. They wouldn't advocate violence against those people, no sir. Breaking into someone's house? That would be wrong.

In my post "The Hit List", I wondered what would happen if someone decided that sacrificing their life to take out one of the "monsters" was an equitable trade. I fear we are getting closer and closer to that time. Some, like the widow of Gary Blanton, would argue that it's already begun.

Constant violent imagery and statements show NPFP's true intentions, and while they themselves may never follow through, their rhetoric may stir the passions and inflame the anger of less well-balanced followers.

This may be free speech, but with the right comes the responsibility - you can't yell "fire" in a crowded movie theater for a reason. Neither can you constantly advocate death for a class of people without bearing some responsibility for what happens when someone inspired by your words takes action.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


As a registered sex offender, you've got your own cheering squad - the only problem is, they're not cheering for you to succeed. Everyone is looking over your shoulder, just waiting for you to fail, so they can hold you up to the media as the perfect example of just why sex offender laws need to be so tough.

It doesn't get easier if you don't fail, though. They just keep looking over your shoulder, looking for that one little flaw. And if you don't present one, if you do everything just right, then your reward is rejections for employment, reminders of just how badly you screwed up, and further isolation and exclusion.

This is the daily grind for a registered sex offender. It's a never ending cycle that you can't get away from.

I admit that I've felt like giving up. Cashing it all in. Dancing at the end of a rope, going to sleep in my car in the garage, or practicing my swan dive off of a bridge somewhere. Today was one of those days. Then I looked into the eyes of my wife, and saw the love and adoration in her face. I guess I'm one of the lucky ones, because while I have a chorus line rooting against me, they just can't compete with the one person who means the world to me.

And that gives me the strength to go back out there for another round.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Hit List

Recently, the Bradford County, Florida Sherrif's Department started installing signs like this in front of the homes of registrants:

Of course, that picture is little better than Lynndie England posing with naked prisoners in Iraq.

The stated purpose of these signs is to inform the public of where registrants live, a function already served by the online registry. The registry, of course, is nothing more than a "shopping list" for vigilantes looking for targets - the murder of Gary Blanton (news article link) comes to mind. In that case, a whole fan club grew up in support of the murderer, even going so far as to call him a "hero". It was sickening and frightening.

Now, others are looking at implementing a similar signage program, and even want it to be nationally required.

While this can seem like a good idea on its face, it can have all sorts of unintended consequences. Just try selling a house that's down the street or next door to a house bearing such a sign. And then there's this:

That's an actual comment on the post by Kids Live Safe (link to Facebook post) - such signs are little more than targets painted on the houses of registrants. How quickly we forget our history.

It's no secret that there's vigilante groups out there that want to kill anyone listed on the sex offender registry. Just look at this post from the "non-violent" No Peace For Predators.

"If it were legal." "Not for lack of want." "Open Predator Season." Comparing living, breathing people to animals, and suggesting that a hunting license should be issued. If the only thing stopping you is the fear of the legal repercussions, what happens when you decide that sacrificing your life and freedom to take out a few of the "monsters" is an equitable trade?

These examples alone should be enough for anyone to see that while the registry might be a useful tool (debatable), having it in the hands of the general public is akin to giving a child a loaded gun and telling them to go play - it's dangerous and irresponsible.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Cast Away

It sounds so romantic - the castaway, on the deserted island. Living in paradise until their eventual rescue and return to society. Books, movies, and even TV shows have been made on this theme - Robinson Crusoe, Swiss Family Robinson, Cast Away, Gilligan's Island, Survivor.

Perfect. Idyllic. Maybe even a little slapstick and fun. Until you realize that "cast away" is just another way of saying "thrown out". Just like the garbage.

In the US, almost 750,000 men, women, and children are modern-day castaways. Commenters on news stories often use the phrase, "dropped on an island somewhere" without realizing that, if you're on the registry, you're already on that island, isolated and alone. Thrown out. Abandoned.

Unlike the romanticized castaways, registrants don't scan the horizon, hoping to see someone, looking for rescue. Although we see others, there's no hope of rescue, because the reality is that our island isn't a tropical paradise - it's a prison in everything but name. Our walls and bars are social and economic isolation, and those patrolling offshore are there to make sure we don't leave our island.

Our only hope is that we'll be "voted off the island", that someday, the laws will change. But that can't happen until politicians stop pandering to the fear they create. Until facts and evidence replace belief and anecdote.

It's time for a "tribal council". Multiply 750,000 by at least 2 loved ones (spouses, parents, children, friends), and suddenly, you've got 2.25 million affected by the registry. That's a conservative estimate - the true number is probably closer to 4 or 5 million. And that, dear readers, is a substantial voting bloc. But only if we're organized. Our voices can't be heard if we don't speak up, and won't be heard unless we speak out. Before we can vote registrants off their islands, we have to vote the politicians out of their ivory towers.

What can you do? Visit USA Fair and learn the truth behind sex offender recidivism and who commits new sex crime. (While you're there, think about joining and supporting their mission.) Use that information to combat the misinformation spread in news stories. Use it to educate your legislator, both at the local and national level. Shine the hard spotlight of truth on those who spread shadows of fear to serve their own self-interest.

Change can happen. But only if you care enough to get involved.

"It is better to light a single candle than curse the darkness."
— W.L. Watkinson, "The Invincible Strategy" 

DISCLAIMER: I am not associated with or paid by USA Fair - although I think their mission is worthwhile and one that I support.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


At the beginning of Les Misérables, published in 1862, prisoner 24601 (Jean Valjean) is released from prison on a lifelong parole. His identity papers brand him as dangerous, and as a result, he has problems gaining employment or housing, finally resorting committing crimes to survive and later assuming a false identity in order to just live his life in peace.

One hundred and fifty years later, the scenario laid out above sounds frighteningly familiar. Residency restrictions and denial of housing. An inability to secure employment. Identity documents that brand the bearer. Further crime, and false identities just to survive. Change Valjean's crime from stealing bread to a sex offense, and his story could be substituted for any of the 750,000 men, women, and children on the registry.


At best, the only thing that's changed is the date on the calendar. In many ways, the situation has gotten far worse. Not only have we as a society failed to learn the lessons of history regarding what doesn't work, we've either forgotten or chosen to ignore the things we've learned about what does.

Valjean, for his part, makes good on his assumed identity and earlier breaking of the conditions of his parole, becoming a force for good in the novel. He is, however, unable to escape his criminal past, despite becoming a productive member of society and a moral guide for others, as he is constantly hunted and hounded by Javert.

How many positive contributions to our society are we missing out on in our zeal to brand, label, and ostracize the sex offender?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Public Shaming

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." Again, he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"

"No one, sir," she said.

"Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now, and leave your life of sin."

John 8:3-11 — New International Version (NIV)
•  •  •  •  •

Living on the registry is living with your greatest mistake made public and broadcast for all to see. For some, like myself, it is a public shaming that will last for the rest of our lives.

It's easy to be judgmental and critical of another, when their sins are laid bare for the world to see, while yours are locked away in a closet, hidden in the depths of your past. Your reputation is secure, when the face you present to the world is unsullied. It is the illusion of superiority, because you believe you're not like those others — people are funny like that.

During my time in prison, I attended lots of counseling, not because I was required to, but because I sought to understand why. Something happens when you spend years in therapy — you begin to understand human behavior. Another thing I did was read. A lot. I read everything I could get my hands on, and when I ran out of stuff, I read the NIV Bible, cover to cover, several times. The passage quoted above always intrigued me, because I always wondered: what was Jesus writing in the dirt? Strangely, the Bible never says, even though so much hung in the balance.

In that passage, the teachers of the law and the Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus into committing heresy, a sin punishable by death, by getting him to denounce the Law of Moses in order to save the life of the woman. They thought they knew what Jesus would do. When the woman is brought before him, Jesus bends over and begins to write in the dirt, rather than answer the question that was put to him. Later, he returns to writing in the dirt, after making the oft-quoted statement, "Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her."

The answer to the question of what Jesus was writing in the dirt is simple, really — the first time, he bent and wrote a list of the transgressions punishable by the Law. A list of sins.

The second time, he started writing names next to those sins. The names of those in the crowd.

John records that the crowd began leaving soon after Jesus started writing a second time. It's little wonder. Harsh judgement and criticism of another under a strict and inflexible Law always melts away when one's own transgressions of that same Law are laid bare in public. Faced with evidence of their own faults and sins, the crowd suddenly realized that they were not any better than the woman they accused.

It's easy to cast stones when you feel your position is secure, when you feel superior to another. It's a far different game when the playing field is leveled. Think about this, the next time you judge that sex offender down the street. You don't know their whole story, and the truth is, they're not that much different from you.

The only difference, really, is that their sins have been made public.

For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.
Romans 3:23 — New International Version (NIV)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Better Definition

A criticism often leveled at sex offenders is, "You made the choices that put you where you are, why should I feel sorry for you?"

On its face, this seems like a reasonable statement. Had I not done what I did, I wouldn't be subject to the registry, and all the myriad life difficulties that come with it. But this is flawed thinking, little better than the "victim blaming" so recently railed against in the wake of the Steubenville case. It's not right there, and it's not right here. Each of us is the sum of the decisions we make, each of us bears responsibility for our actions or inactions, and daily make choices that lead us to where we are.

Did I deserve to be punished for what I did? Unequivocally, yes. That's what prison is for, and I duly served my time — several long years of contemplation and reflection. When I was released from parole, my parole agent shook my hand, looked me in the eye, and told me to go out and live my life. I'm still waiting to do that.

Almost 26 years after my crime, with nothing worse than a speeding ticket in that time, one has to wonder how long is long enough to be listed on the registry? I have now been out of prison and off parole for twice as long as I was in. Shouldn't that qualify me for some consideration? Shouldn't we define the trustworthiness of an individual by how they have lived their lives every moment since that horrible mistake of judgement?

Lest you think that 16 years of being "monitored" by the registry is responsible for my never having offended again, let me assure you: a yearly visit to register and quarterly compliance check letters to make sure I'm living where I say I'm living isn't "monitoring" — not by a long shot. The big lie that the government wants you to believe is that they're sitting over my shoulder, watching my every move, keeping you safe. That those who live around me have me under their watchful surveillance, having been duly notified to my presence by a website.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

If 17 years of law-abiding citizenship doesn't speak volumes about my character, doesn't reflect a lesson learned, and doesn't earn me the right to live my life in relative security, peace, and freedom, then I would submit that the problem isn't me.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


It happened to me just the other day: coming out of the store, walking quickly through the chilling drizzle, I came upon a young mother struggling with 3 unruly children and a cart overflowing with groceries. Fighting my first instinct, I approached the woman, and offered my help, as others dashed by in the rain without a second glance. She opened the back of her SUV, and by the time she'd gotten her children loaded and strapped into their various car seats, I had most of her groceries loaded in the back. She flashed a quick smile of gratitude, and offered a few dollars as thanks, which I declined.

Never once did she ask me if I was a Sex Offender.

Every time I go to the store, someone asks me to get something off of the top shelf for them. They never ask if I'm a Sex Offender first. I doubt it even crosses their mind. They simply see someone who can solve their problem: an unreachable item, and someone to get it for them.

I often wonder what would happen if, in response to a request for help, I instead identified myself as a Sex Offender. Would they still accept my retrieving of that unreachable item? Would they let me load their groceries in the rain, so they could tend to their children? Or, would they run screaming?

Of course, I know the answer.

Consider though: I hold certifications in First Aid and CPR. I've been first on scene to various auto accidents, some minor, some with severe injuries and death. I know what it's like to perform chest compressions - those who have done it will understand when I talk about the feeling that classes and training doesn't prepare you for. The utter and complete exhaustion that sets in after just a few minutes of fighting to keep someone alive. It sounds like bragging, but I know that there are people walking around today because I was there to help them. Sadly, there is one person whom I was unable to save - but that is a different story for another time.

If you were choking, or your loved one were having a heart attack, I think that you'd want me or someone like me there to help. And I doubt that you'd take the time to check the online registry or ask if I was a Sex Offender. What you would do is ask me for help.

And if I'm good enough to help save your life, shouldn't I be good enough to live down the street from you? Good enough to hire? Or do I still deserve to be locked away or dropped on an island somewhere to die?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Sins of the Father

This past Easter weekend, the television news was full of Easter Egg hunts, scrambles, and rolls. The screen was full of happy children, gleefully bouncing through the parks and lawns, searching for candy-filled eggs, with their parents laughing, smiling, encouraging, and helping. I'm sure that more than a few pictures were snapped, and many memories were made. These are the happy moments that make up childhood, memories and pictures to last a lifetime.

Sadly, some of those memories and pictures won't include dad - not because dad didn't want to be there, but because he wasn't allowed to be.

Far too often, we focus on the continued punishment and persecution of the sex offender, righteously defending their exclusion from parks and playgrounds where children may be with the oft-repeated mantra of "if it saves one child..." Rarely do we consider that there are children being harmed - innocent children, whose only crime was to be fathered by a sex offender, who don't understand why daddy can't be there, but only that daddy wasn't there, and equate that lack of presence with lack of love.

"If it saves one child...all children deserve a happy childhood full of love and security." Except the child of a sex offender. They don't count.

When advocates for Sex Offender Law reform speak of "collateral damage", this is what they mean. Children whose sex offender parent is absent not from a lack of desire to participate, but because they are legally prevented. Easter egg rolls. Summer days at the beach. A picnic in the park. Visits to the zoo. Trick-or-treat. School plays. School sports. School field trips. Father-daughter dances. Graduation. The things that bind a child to a father, the shared experiences that build a happy, healthy childhood.

And those are just the passive modes of collateral damage. There's also the whispers and rumors. Teasing. Outright bullying and verbal and physical assaults for being the child of a sex offender. The fear that comes with drive-by harassment of their parent by vigilantes. Vandalism of their home or the family car. Being shunned and ostracized at school and in the neighborhood.

"All children deserve a happy childhood full of love and security."

Don't they?

Friday, March 29, 2013

When Is Rape OK?

I'm pretty sure we can all agree that rape is a horrible thing. It should never happen. In the past weeks, an entire movement has taken hold on the internet about "rape culture" and "victim blaming". Eloquent tirades and petitions to terminate employment have been written and circulated against "rape apologists" in the media. If asked, you'd probably agree that rape is something you wouldn't wish against your worst enemy.

Curiously, though, a quick scroll though any story about a sexual assault will find several comments to the effect of, "I hope they go to prison and get raped."

Rape is horrible. Rape is vile. And rape is NOT acceptable, even if it's rape for vengeance, even if it's rape as punishment.

So before you start talking about "rape culture", perhaps you should take a few minutes to think. This isn't an eye-for-an-eye, acceptable-in-certain-situations type of issue. It really is black-and-white: either rape is wrong, or it isn't.

There's only one right answer.
An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.
Mahatma Gandhi

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Broken? Or Uneducated?

Bear with me, here, because this may be uncomfortable, but it's something that needs to be discussed.

Over here (website link) is a well-written blog entry about rape education. And it's not what you think.

“Sure, in a perfect world, you could aim rape prevention efforts at potential rapists. But that’s never going to work. Rapists are sociopaths, beyond the reach of persuasion or reason. You’re never going to convince them. So it’s totally reasonable to aim rape prevention efforts at potential rape victims, and teaching them how not to be raped.”

That sounds reasonable, because it fits with the reality that we believe about sex offenders. They're sociopaths. You can't reach them. They're beyond reason or persuasion. They're just going to do it again, and again, and again.

Of course, we know that the truth is far different, and so does Greta Christina, the blog's author.

"[...] this business of rapists being just a handful of sociopaths — as opposed to active members of society who you might know — is bullshit. I don’t want to hear it again… because it’s just flatly not true."

Thank you, Greta.

Go, read that blog entry, and understand what Greta is saying. Rape isn't about deep-seated psychological disturbances, although there are some truly disturbed rapists. It's not about uncontrollable urges, although there are some for whom the urge is overwhelmingly powerful. For the vast majority, rape is about cultural attitudes and a lack of education aimed at the potential offender that rape is wrong.

Read that again: it's lack of education. As a card-carrying male, I'm here to tell you, I never got the message that "silence does not imply 'yes'". On a conceptual level, I understand that, but on an emotional, instinctual level - I didn't. It's this lack of education that's the point. It's what we need to be teaching, on both sides.

Think on this, though: if rape prevention education aimed at potential offenders works (and it does), why then do we subject those who never received such education and commit such acts to lifelong public shaming, hatred, and discrimination in the form of "you can't live here" and "you'll never get a job", instead of education, rehabilitation, and re-integration into our society?

Do we, as a society, truly believe that these men (and women*) are irrevocably "broken"? Do we honestly think that they cannot learn from their mistakes, or that they cannot be taught? Or are our attitudes and treatment of these people rooted in a deeper, more primal need for revenge and the desire to create equity between crime and its punishment?

Food for thought.

*Yes, there's women on the sex offender registry. And children, too, sometimes as young as 10 years old. Surprised?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Facts Matter

It's no secret that Sex Offenders are not well liked. Vigilante groups, those who would take the law into their own hands, are everywhere. One of the most visible is on Facebook, and goes by the telling name of "No Peace For Predators". In their view, all Sex Offenders are predators - and their name gives away their true intentions: to harass, threaten, intimidate, and otherwise make life miserable for anyone unfortunate enough to find themselves on the Registry and in their area of operation. Particularly telling is that their logo is a set of brass knuckles.

So, it was quite interesting when I found this on their Facebook page:

What's this? A link to actual facts about Sex Offenders? Let's investigate and see what's here:

I'm moderately impressed that NPFP would link to actual statistics from credible sources. But, let's go back to the original post: NPFP states that, while the linked site is "a good tool", they're "not too sure about the numbers". In short, even though they found the link and posted it, they don't believe it's true.

Why is that, NPFP? Is it because the facts don't match up with what you've been led to believe? Is it because you feel a bit of a twinge of conscience when you harass someone who poses no danger to anyone?

Notice the comment left by Sabrina Fitzgerald-Ruiz - even in the face of evidence that 94.7% of sex offenders pose no risk for committing another sex crime, despite the fact that 60% of boys and 80% of girls are molested by someone they know and not a stranger on the registry, she and others believe that Sex Offenders cannot be rehabilitated.

If you think that a 5.3% recidivism rate is too high, you're right. It should be 0%, in a perfect world. But we don't live in a perfect world, because if we did, the initial crime would never have happened, which would negate the possibility of recidivism.

But, let's put that recidivism rate in perspective. The State of Tennessee conducted a study in 2009 (story link) that tracked the recidivism rates for DUI, robbery, and rape for the 5 years between 2002 and 2007. Here's what they found:

DUI recidivism - 34% within 6 months of initial arrest
Robbery recidivism - 16% within 6 months of initial arrest
Rape recidivism - 6% within 6 months of initial arrest

Drunk drivers are almost 6 times more likely to drink and drive again, compared to sex offenders committing another crime.

Sabrina Fitzgerald-Ruiz complains about a system that "slaps (offenders) on the wrist, only to be released" again. I submit that she's worried about the wrong group of offenders.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Residency Restriction Fallacy

In my State, as in most (if not all) others, sex offenders are prohibited from living within a certain number of feet of a school. The list usually also contains parks, playgrounds, daycares, and a host of other locations, but I'm focusing on schools for this post. I happen to be a bit lucky; my State allows a sex offender to live within the prohibited zone if they had established their residence before the law prohibiting residency took effect.

I mention this because the lot my house sits on straddles the boundary of the prohibited zone, which, of course, means that the entire property would normally be off limits for me to live there, had I not bought my house several years before the law took effect. The ironic part is, the house directly behind me would be perfectly legal for me to live in. Both houses are on the corners of parallel streets that intersect the main street used for children walking to and from the school.

I measured the distance from the school boundary to the edge of the prohibited zone, because I was curious. That boundary lies exactly 3 feet from the threshold of my front door, so technically, I don't live in the prohibited zone, but the law is not concerned with the house itself, but rather the property as a whole.

But this begs a question: if the law recognized that the structure is separate from the lot, how do those 3 feet make the children of that school any safer? Suppose that the boundary crossed through the middle of my house: why would they be safer if I lived in a back bedroom instead of a front one? Under the current interpretation, why are they safer if I lived in the house behind my house (which would put me approximately 77 feet outside the exclusion zone, based on property lines)? If anything, that particular house sits closer to the sidewalk those children would walk down than the house I currently live in.

The answer is: they aren't, and the reason why has nothing to do with my probability of re-offending. It has nothing to do with my proximity to their school. It has nothing to do with anything related to me, because those children are 20 times more likely to be molested by a family member or trusted friend.

To paraphrase a line from a movie: "We've tracked the molester - they're already in your house."

At best, residency restrictions and online registries are distractions from the real dangers facing your children. At worst, they provide a false sense of security, lowering your guard when it needs to be at its highest level of alert. Those multi-foot bubbles around schools and other locations don't magically prevent harm from happening, and yet, we act like they do.

Facts remain facts, whether or not you choose to accept them. And those facts say that 95% of all new sex crime is committed by someone who is not listed on any online registry, who is free to live within a prohibited zone. The young men in the Steubenville case. Jerry Sandusky. These are but two examples of a list that goes on and on.

Does the registry have value? Perhaps, but only if it could effectively identify the highest risks. Do residency restrictions have value? Again, perhaps, but only for those who pose the highest risk. It might seem strange for someone on the registry to make these statements, but understand: I'm not against the registry as a concept. It's the overly-broad application of the registry that's the problem. If someone cries "wolf" every time they see a dog, eventually, you stop caring because every time the cry goes out, it turns out it's not a wolf - and then one day, a wolf shows up and you fail to heed to call. This is the state of the registry and laws today.

There's wolves out there, and they're already amongst your flock, because, right now, they look and act like the loyal family dog.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Steubenville & "Rape Culture"

Aside from the documented cases of serial rapists and serial molesters, sex crime is rarely a planned activity. And yet, after high profile cases such as Steubenville, the blogs and comments in news articles are filled with calls for castration or even execution as an effective way to make sure "it never happens again". One commenter I saw advocated crushing the testicles of the two young men convicted in the Steubenville case between two large rocks as a first punishment, in order to "remove the tools used to commit the crime" - followed by public execution for a second offense.

This, of course, ignores the well-established data that says sex offenders have one of the lowest recidivism rates. While no predictor of future action is 100% accurate, the best indicator we have is the sum of the actions of those who have come before. That data says that these young men have a very low chance of ever doing something like this again. Testicle smashing and execution are not about justice - they're about vengeance.

In the case in Steubenville, as in most sex crime cases, it was a crime of opportunity, fueled by an inhibition and judgement-lowering substance (in this case, alcohol, and possibly drugs) and mob mentality. This does not excuse the actions of these young men, nor does it justify them. The young woman should have been safe to become drunk and incapacitated - and it was the moral duty of those around her to make sure she stayed safe while in that state.

Humans are funny animals. In an intoxicated state, and in the presence of peers, we do things that we normally would not do. This is why so many family reunions and gatherings end in fights when a simmering resentment normally held in check is released by alcohol. It's the basis of the "Here, hold my beer" and the "Hey, y'all, watch this" redneck jokes. One only has to look at the riots after sports championships are won to understand that the intoxication need not come from alcohol or other substances. People get trampled to death on Black Friday over a flat-screen TV. Individually, these boys would probably have taken the right action. Sadly, like the rest of humanity, in a group and in the presence of alcohol, different dynamics and thought processes took over.

However, after the verdicts and sentences, something strange happened. Feminist blogs and commenters began to talk about "rape culture". Hashtags appeared on Twitter; graphics showed up on Facebook; blogs began to overflow with rants about the injustice of the Steubenville sentences as evidence of "rape culture".

What is "rape culture"? According to these blogs and their followers and commenters, "rape culture" is the unstated privilege that men supposedly enjoy that encourages and fosters rape. "Rape culture" is concerned with the hurt feelings and damaged futures of the perpetrators of rape, rather than the victim. "Rape culture" is "victim blaming" if the news media reports on and comments about the rapist instead of the victim.

It is, of course, complete and utter bullshit. The feminist outcry isn't about justice for the victim; it's about vengance against the perpetrators. "Where is the talk about the victim?" they cry. What they don't understand is that the news media cannot give any information about the "promising student" the victim is. They cannot talk about her career plans. They cannot identify her in any way, because the laws championed by these same feminists years ago in the name of protecting the victim from having details of her past exposed now prevents the news from revealing anything, unless and until the victim herself comes forward. In the absence of anything to report about the victim, the news media instead focuses on the one thing they can - the perpetrators. If we truly care about justice, and truly care about healing the wounds that all involved have suffered, we would have sympathy for both the victim and the perpetrators in everything they have lost - the careers, the hard work, the innocence of youth. As the law and current situation stands, we are left with only the ability to mourn what these young men have lost in a moment of drunken stupidity.

But, there is a darker side to "rape culture", one that the feminists don't acknowledge. You're not supposed to believe that this could happen:

The feminists cry out, the victim is to be believed at all costs. Even if the story doesn't quite make sense. The police have "an unreasonably strict definition of rape." And, in order to be believed, the victim need only "put on a bit of a show".

This is the true "rape culture". It's rape used as a weapon - not only by men against women, but by women against men. Think on this, the next time you condemn someone of being on the Sex Offender Registry. That "pervert" down the street might just be as innocent as they claim. Then again, they might not be so innocent. You don't know.

And you'll never know, if all you know is based upon a listing on a website.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Power of Fear

"Not in my back yard."

There's an insidious problem creeping in to the neighborhoods of this country. Neighbors are looking around, and seeing large concentrations of sex offenders living in their midst. Two decades of political fear-mongering, of convincing the public of the "danger" represent by sex offenders, has lead to this:

LA Building Pocket Parks To Force Sex Offenders To Move

Los Angeles is but the latest city to follow the lead set by Miami of setting residency restrictions so tight that sex offenders are forced to live in tighter and tighter clusters, and then establishing so-called "pocket parks" in the middle of the cluster, effectively removing the last vestige of legally habitable space. Many times, these "pocket parks" are little more than a housing lot, spruced up with nominal play-equipment and a sign. Sometimes, they're even smaller than that. With very little, if any, actual room for children to play, the "pocket park" strategy is exposed for what it is: a return to the colonial-era practice of exile.

Even with decades of research, enough studies to decimate a forest, and a mountain of data to choke a supercomputer, the myth continues, feeding the politics of fear:

"Sex offenders are incurable, will offend again, and they're coming for your children."

And so, we shun these people, push them to the margins of society, exile them to the fringes of our cities and towns, deny them employment. Then, when they lose all hope, all shreds of dignity, and finally become the criminal we've left them no choice but to be (by stealing, selling drugs, assuming false identities and living in prohibited areas) in an effort to merely survive, we hold them up to the light and say, "See? I told you! They're worthless!"

We respond, not with understanding the very thing that forced them underground (or into clusters of living areas); instead, we respond with stricter laws and establish things like "pocket parks". To use a medical analogy, it's like trying to cure a disease without understanding the cause of the infection. To quote Princess Leia in Star Wars: "The more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers", as sex offenders, left with little choice, go underground with assumed identities and are lost to the very system that's supposed to track them, in order to live in decent housing and support themselves with a job.

If we truly cared about justice, if we really want to monitor sex offenders, we wouldn't drive them from our midst with the glaring spotlight of public shaming and fear-based community notifications. We would help them re-integrate into society, with stable jobs and secure housing. But, if we are honest without ourselves, we will admit that our current policies, attitudes, and laws about sex offenders aren't about justice and monitoring - they're about vengeance and humiliation.

And that speaks volumes about our society.

I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.
Abraham Lincoln

Monday, March 11, 2013

First Things

Let's get one thing straight, right from the beginning: I'm not here seeking sympathy or absolution. What's done is done, and nothing can change that. But what I can change is the future. That is the purpose of this blog; to inform, instruct, and (hopefully) educate the reader by sharing my story, observations, and facts.

Often I hear something to the effect of, "Why should you get to go on and live your life, when your victim has to deal with what you've done for the rest of hers?" This is an absurd question, for several reasons:
  1. It pre-supposes that my victim cannot recover from the trauma I inflicted, that she is, in some sense, "damaged for life". I do not argue that, in some respect, what I've done has changed how she lives her life. But, victims of trauma do not remain victims, unless they choose to, or are forced to remain so by a public that needs a victim to justify continuing revenge and punishment. Each of us bears the trauma of events in our lives, from car accidents to dog bites to broken bones and near-drownings. Those traumas have made us who we are, and while they may have changed how we approach certain situations, we have moved beyond them.
  2. It presumes that punishment dictated by the criminal justice system is inadequate. That the laws of the State, passed by the People, do not deal a harsh enough punishment. That the trauma of sexual assault is quintessentially different than the trauma of being a victim of any other crime, and therefore, must be dealt with more severely. 
  3. It relies upon the false assumption that sex offenders cannot control themselves, and that it is just a matter of time before they re-offend. This flies in the face of numerous studies that show that sexual offenders have the second lowest specific-recidivism (committing the same crime again) rate of any class of criminal - the only group with a lower rate of specific-recidivism are people convicted of murder.
  4. It is supported by the belief that the laws regarding sex offenders will protect you or your loved ones. While there is a sub-set of sex offenders who will re-offend (as there is any any group of criminals), the studies show that 95% of all sex offenses are committed by someone not on the sex offender registry. Think about that for a moment - you are 20 times more likely to be the victim of a sexual assault committed by someone who isn't me or or one of my fellow registrants.
  5. Related to this belief is the assumption that these laws have reduced the overall rate of sex offenses, when studies show that the rate has remained constant over a period covering 10 years before and 10 years after the enactment of the various laws.
  6. It classifies people like me as an animal or sub-human. It is easy to justify the mistreatment and denial of rights of a class of citizen once we make the determination that they are less than human. It is the basis for slavery, the slaughter of Native Americans, the atrocities committed against the Jews, and segregation.
  7. It assumes that I do not feel some measure of guilt and remorse over my actions.
So, the question shouldn't be, "Why should you get to go on and live your life?", but rather, "What can we do to help your victim and you rebuild your life?" Sadly, we're not there, for either myself or my victim.